What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a Greek word meaning porous bone. It is characterized by a decrease in the density of bone, decreasing its strength and resulting in fragile bones, that may break from a fall or in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps. Osteoporosis can sneak up on you and is often called a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones weakening.
Invest in your bones in your youth
It’s never too early to invest in bone health. Bones are living tissue and continue to grow during childhood and adolescence, reaching maximum strength, a point known as “peak bone mass” about the age of 30.
The bone mass you acquire during youth protects you later in life from osteoporosis. A 10% increase in bone mass reduces the risk of an osteoporotic fracture later in life by 50%.
Bone mass decreases by 0.3%-0.5% per year after the age of 35, bone loss occurs more rapidly in women after menopause due to the drop in estrogen levels. During the first five to 10 years after menopause, women can lose 2%- 4% of their bone density.
How can you protect your bones?
There is a lot you can do to protect your bones, you’re never too young or too old to improve the health of your bones.
- Diet: a healthy diet in all stages of life is essential for prevention of osteoporosis. If you want to build stronger bones, you need three key elements: Calcium, Vitamin D and protein.
- Exercise regularly, especially weight bearing exercise.
- Stop smoking and avoid passive smoking.
- Avoid calcium depleting substances such as alcohol.
- Avoid soda drinks.
- Avoid under-nutrition, particularly the effects of severe weight-loss diets.
The following increases your risk of osteoporosis:
- Family history of osteoporosis: having a mother with an osteoporotic hip fracture doubles your risk of hip fracture.
- Aging, whether male or female.
- Female gender.
- Thin and small body frame.
- Poor diet e.g. low calcium food intake.
- Vitamin D insufficiency.
- Lack of exercise.
- Immobility, such as after a stroke, or from any condition that interferes with walking.
- Heavy use of tobacco, alcohol or soda drinks.
- Chronic use of certain drugs such as steroids.
- Certain diseases such as chronic liver disease or cushing syndrome.
Recommendations for women and men above 50 years:
- Counsel on the risk of osteoporosis and related fractures.
- Check for secondary causes.
- Take adequate amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D.
- Regular weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises to reduce risk of falls and fractures.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol.
- Bone mineral density testing is recommended.